Words do hurt


I am both ecstatic and anxious about going to Edmonton’s Pride for the second time. Although it has always provided a space for sexual diversity, there are still some concerns about the lack of support for gender diversity. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for all the hard work that goes into making this necessary event possible. However, it is still important for us to continuously listen to issues, such as those expressed by trans* voices, and make any necessary changes.

I want to discuss how we can be more queer-friendly and gender inclusive as we continue to grow, learn, love and transform together. But of course, I do not speak for the entire trans* community and this is only part of an ongoing conversation.

It is important to be mindful and conscious of the language we use when communicating with each other. There is growing debate around use of the word “tranny.” It is a politically charged word that can be meaningful for some or extremely triggering and interpreted as a transphobic slur to others. Our words deeply affect our way of thinking which in turn influences how we view other people.

The same goes for pronouns and name changes. Besides “he/him” and “she/her”, there is also “they” and “zie/hir” now used as legitimate gender inclusive singular pronouns. I have changed my language by replacing the term “prefers the pronoun” with “uses the pronoun.” This was addressed in a Facebook post by trans* activist and artist Ivan Coyote: “When someone writes that a person ‘prefers’ a particular pronoun, it infers that there is a choice there for everyone, whether to respect that wish or not. However, for some (if not most) gender variant and/or trans* folks, not having their pronoun respected is hurtful and constantly correcting people is exhausting and alienating.”

I encourage everyone to be mindful and respectful of the language we use in our day-to-day interactions with each other. It never hurts to ask if you are unsure.

However, and I cannot stress this enough, asking about an individual’s private parts is extremely inappropriate and invasive. Gender identity does not solely rely on the genitalia we were born with. Trans* actress and activist Laverne Cox, who has been featured on the latest cover of Time magazine, eloquently reminds us: “The preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans* people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences—the reality of trans* people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community.”

Let’s start engaging in meaningful conversations around gender and seeking new ways of understanding ourselves and each other. Happy Pride!

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